Steve catfish

Fishing is a many-spendored thing. Sometimes, it’s fancy with high-tech rods and waders made of space-age fabric. Sometimes, it’s intense with metal-flake competition-grade bass boats and sophisticated copolymer lines.

But sometimes (especially in the heat of summer), fishing is just relaxed and even a little lazy.

That’s catfish fishing!

I’ve always enjoyed fishing for catfish. Maybe that’s because it’s such a great antidote to all the other high-stress things in life. Simple, that’s what it is. All you need is a spinning rod and some bait. Cast your offering out there, and then settle down in the shade by the water, stretched out in a folding chair or maybe on a blanket in the grass. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. 

Then just wait. Maybe you’ll get a bite and reel in a catfish. Or maybe you won’t, but that’s okay, too, because then you don’t have to work hardly at all.

Either way, it’s a perfect prescription for enjoying a lazy summer afternoon.

One great thing about fishing for catfish is that they’re easy to find and catch, even for inexperienced anglers.

“Georgia provides plenty of opportunities for folks to toss out a line for catfish,” says Matt Thomas, WRD Fisheries Management Chief. “Catching catfish requires relatively simple gear and is a great way to introduce someone new to fishing, especially kids.”

Georgia’s best-known catfish is probably the channel cat, North America’s most widespread catfish. Most run from 1 to 4 pounds, but larger ones (such as the world record, a 58-pound monster landed in South Carolina) are always a possibility. Good baits include nightcrawlers or other worms, chicken livers, and (the favorite of many) a piece of a hotdog.

As far as gear goes, a spinning rod fitted with 6- to 14-lb. test line and a size 2 or 4 hook will get you going. Use a bobber to tell you when a fish takes your bait. Of course, you can also just fish your bait on the bottom.

Remember that catfish favor deeper areas during the day. Try an area for a half hour or so, and if you don’t have any luck, move to a different area and try again. Early and late, cats will move into shallower water, so adjust your tactics depending on when you’re fishing.

When handling a catfish, remember that they’ve got sharp spines. Getting stuck by one hurts. Don’t ask me how I know.

Where are some good nearby places to fish for catfish? One of the closest places to try your luck is Lake Lanier, where you’ll find a good population of channel cats in the 1- to 2-pound range. You’ll find them in both the Chattahoochee and the Chestatee arms of the lake. Larger flathead catfish are also possible.

Check out your local neighborhood or subdivision ponds too. Those ponds often hold catfish, and you may be surprised at what you find on the end of your line.

If you are up for some catch-and-release fishing, check out the family fishing pond at the Buford Trout Hatchery off Ga. 20. Loaner rods may be available, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own. And be sure to leave time to check out the hatchery trout too. You can’t fish for those trout, but you just might be able to feed them!

Of course, one of the greatest things about catfish may be the inevitable “catfish fry” which often follows a successful day of fishing. Everyone has a favorite recipe, but most go something like this: After cleaning the catfish, and perhaps fileting it, soak the fish in buttermilk or (for a little extra zing) in Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce for a few minutes. Then roll the filets in a mixture of cornmeal, salt, pepper, onion powder and maybe a little garlic powder. Shake off the excess and fry ’em at about 360 degrees for three or four minutes until golden brown. But leave room for some peach ice cream for dessert. 

I’m making myself hungry just thinking about it!

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